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Australian Dance Theatre

'The Age of Unbeauty'

The view twenty minutes into the future

by Cassandra

March 4, 2005 -- Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

“The Age of Unbeauty” was created as a response to the unremitting images of misery that confront us daily on our news-screens. Artistic director Garry Stewart refers in the programme notes to the media coverage of the horrors of our age and his choreography recreates the baseness that exists in our world with an uncompromising vigour.

This work presents us with a relentless series of powerful images of suffering and brutality that are as stark and ugly as the title suggests. There is a lot of violence, much of it aimed at women: in an early sequence a woman dressed only in underwear and bound and blindfolded is manipulated with vicious cruelty by a man who may be a torturer for some twisted political regime, or perhaps someone enjoying a particularly unpleasant form of sexual perversion. Either way it makes disquieting viewing.

Later we see a series of energetic kung-fu fights in which the defeated opponents are stripped naked as if to further humiliate them. The fallen are then unceremoniously dumped onto a trolley, their twisted limbs recalling the horrors of the holocaust. A row of dancers with heads bowed, all bent double with their hands behind their backs and their trousers around their ankles, substituting for leg irons, make a painful progress across the stage. This was strangely reminiscent of a scene from Grigorovitch’s “Spartacus”, where the slaves are being herded by their new masters.  No doubt subjugation looks the same in all ages.

At one point a door opens at the back of the stage, but a glass barrier prevents the nude couple behind it from gaining entry. They look strangely innocent, like Adam and Eve locked out of the garden of Eden.  But we know that the paradise they seek is a fool's paradise populated by the heartless, the inhuman and the merciless.

This is a bleak view of humanity with only a very few reminders of the softer side of human nature. It’s a harsh view of the world but an honest one and the dancers portray the oppressors and their victims with great force and authority. A disturbing work that reflects the disturbing events of our times.


Edited by Staff.

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